I am, and shall always be, an Earth Ball or cage ball, a large inflatable ball most often seen in junior-high-school locker rooms, where it is kept in case it is needed for physical activities when conditions do not permit students to go outside. At present, I make my home in suburban Baltimore, secretly longing for bad weather. A rainstorm, to me, is 10,000 drops of hope.
And yet, this longing is presently without proper context. School has ended. The locker room is a stew of mixed emotions. Some of the equipment is happy to have the summer rest, while there are others who can’t stop crying over the fact that for months they will not be thrown, rolled, or swung by children. I am somewhere in the middle, displeased that summer has taken away our students, but pleased that it has brought an influx of new arrivals. There is a new football named Maxtor. There is a new tennis racket named Swingy. There are four new batting helmets who perform in a barbershop quartet. And, finally, there are two new medicine balls. These are smaller than earth balls but are otherwise the same.
The two new medicine balls are related. The smaller of the two is Amelia, who is young and attractive, and the larger is her father, Professor Lamarque. He has a first name, which I think is Clement, but he insists on being called Professor, even by his daughter. To be honest, I do not know what to think of Professor Lamarque. On the one hand, he is quite elderly, and sleeps through most of the day. On the other hand, I don’t have any hands. And then there is the matter of his intimidating intellect. He is unquestionably brilliant, one of the smartest spheres I have ever met. Why, just the other day he was holding forth on the nature of spin-foam models in quantum physics, and then this morning he was majestic on the difference between “calzone” and “Stromboli.” And then there is his vocabulary. Coach Parker is pretty smart. He does the Sudoku in a half-hour tops. But I have never before and will probably never again encounter anyone who knows as many words as Professor Lamarque. There is a veritable dictionary inside of him. (“Veritable” is a word I picked up just from being in his proximity. “Proximity” is another. From now on, for everyone’s benefit, I think I will mark all words I have learned from the professor with an asterisk(). (I don’t mean that I didn’t know the word asterisk, by the way. I was just illustrating what an asterisk looked like in case there were others who didn’t know. I’m sorry if I caused any perturbation().) His intimidating effect even extends to his daughter. She has a fine little figure (she’s round) and a lovely way about her, but I am worried that if I were to ever suggest any balling between us—I do not beg your pardon, for that is what we quite properly call it—my offer would be met with a condescending 10-degree rotation in the opposite direction. In fact, I believe that the only way that I can enter into her good graces is to ally myself with her father, and so that is what I am trying to do. It is not a smooth road. He is usually asleep, as I have said, and when he is awake he spends most of his time lecturing. He is the newcomer, and yet he has made me feel like one.
We have bonded on one point, though: the pernicious() nature of the radio and television host Sean Hannity. During the last five years, I have listened to at least a thousand hours of Sean Hannity’s radio program, which runs from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. EST weekdays, and I have spent at least a hundred hours watching his television program, which is broadcast on the Fox News Channel at 9 p.m. EST weekdays. In total hours, I figure the investment to be upwards of 1,100. Over that period of time, I have come to see that not everything that Sean Hannity says is entirely true, that he can sometimes put the cart of politics before the horse of the facts. In fact, it came to the point where listening to the show was no longer diverting() and I wished to be done with the whole nasty business.
But then came the fateful day when Coach Parker, leaving for the summer, turned off the radio. Or rather: he thought he turned off the radio. In fact, he left it on at a volume inaudible to the human ear but perfectly clear to the powerful hearing of balls and in fact all spheres. I can hear the radio. Amelia can hear the radio. Professor Lamarque can hear the radio. And whereas it took me years to determine that Sean Hannity was playing fast and loose with facts and implications—if he said he was telling the truth, I had reasoned, who was I to say otherwise?—Professor Lamarque has sussed() out that same phenomenon in only two weeks. In fact, I mention the cart of politics and the horse of reason in homage() to Professor Lamarque. The other day, the Lamarques and I were listening to the radio when Sean Hannity made a forceful remark about the immigration bill that is currently being revived in Congress. Professor Lamarque harrumphed(*) and said, “I say, my dear boy—if that man’s reason were a horse, it would be afflicted with a swelling of the hock joint.”
Amelia tittered(*). “Oh, father,” she said. “You have such a witty way about you when you are angry.”
“Wit is wasted on the witless,” Professor Lamarque riposted(*).
I rolled an inch and change closer to Amelia. I could feel a bit of heat rising off her roundness. My diameter expanded. My surface reddened. I rolled back toward the window, where an incoming breeze cooled my contents and permitted me a slightly smaller, considerably less conspicuous volume. It was then that I decided that the only true way to Amelia’s heart was to drive the dagger of truth into the fallacious() gravamina() that stream from the mouth of Sean Hannity. I would prove to Amelia that I was every bit as perspicacious() as her father. And so I sat and waited for my opportunity here in the interstice() between the school year and the summer, enjoying the thought that we, the Lamarques and I, might one day inhabit an Erewhon(*) of mutual admiration and even love.
Then, the other day, my opportunity became suddenly obtainable(). We were listening to Sean Hannity, and he said something that struck me as an unmitigated() and execrable() untruth. After a brief philippic() against the welfare state, he took it upon himself to deride(*) the entire notion of government. “There’s very little that we can point to where we say that government has actually fixed a problem, solved a problem,” he said. “I mean, the best function of government, actually, is the military, to preserve liberty and freedom.”
I was thunderstruck. What about roads? Water? Stamps? Currency? Education? Law enforcement? Public health? The promotion of science? The courts? Those were nine functions of government I thought of off the top of my head. I looked over at Professor Lamarque. He was asleep. I looked over at Amelia, who was staring out the window. “Did you hear that?” I said.
“Yes,” she said, with some distraction.
Now my chance was at hand. I could say something revelatory(). I could deliver unto Sean Hannity such coruscating() contumely(*) that Amelia would see, in a flash, that I was the equal of her father.
“Man,” I said. “What an ass.”
Amelia now seems to have a thing for Maxtor. I think I saw him jabbing his point into her the other morning. I feel bad, but how bad can you ever feel about speaking the truth? Boo-ya(*)!